Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Media Relations: Pitching to Win

Public relations firms are always looking for the freshest angle to get our clients in the best media outlets. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started in this industry, though, it’s that sending out a blanket email to the media while pitching, even if it’s a great story, won’t produce results.  I’ve had plenty of reporters never respond to my messages or emails, rush me off the phone or respond to me like I’m secretly trying to get them to hand over credit card numbers.  Not because I didn’t have a good angle, but because I didn’t package the information how they like it.

There is no fool-proof formula that will work for all media.  However, I’d like to share a few simple steps I’ve picked up from my own discussions with reporters that can increase you chances at a winning pitch:

Research Your Target
Reporters often have very specific beats beyond just business, technology, or healthcare.  They may only be interested in stories about small businesses with a diversity angle, cloud computing technologies, or biomedical research.  These beat writers find it extremely annoying to receive emails that are off-topic, but it is easy to avoid.  The easiest way to know if your target reporter is a good fit for a pitch is to actually read his or her past work.  Doing your homework on a reporter is also a great way to see how you can tailor your current pitch copy to match a trend that he has already covered.

Don’t Make Contacts. Build Relationships.
I’ve been to several media panels during which editors have stressed the importance of building a rapport with their writers, even suggesting coffee or lunch appointments to introduce yourself and ask questions.  This may seem intimidating at first, but the relationship you seek to build is a two-way street.  PR professionals need reporters to take interest in their clients, and reporters need interesting stories to engage their readers.  They need us as much as we need them!  Since you’ve already done your research, use that initial knowledge to engage in a mutual conversation about what you want to place and what the reporter wants to write. 

Know When “No” Means “No”
Another of the biggest qualms the media has with PR pros is our persistence in follow up. It is certainly important to check on the status of a pitch, especially with key targets for your client.  However, calling every day and sending eight emails for the same pitch will get you nowhere.  You have to respect that sometimes reporters don’t need or want the information we have to offer, whether it’s an issue of timing or disinterest.  In backing off gracefully, you safe yourself the possibility of ending up on a permanent block list.       
Incorporate these steps into your pitch routine and get ready for the placements to be rolling off the presses. 
This blog post was written by Christine Guerrini. Christine Guerrini is a member of the public relations team at Tierney agency in Center City Philadelphia. A Villanova grad, Christine specializes in media relations, social media and research. She has worked with clients in a variety of fields, including consumer, non-profit, and B2B. Outside of work, Christine is an avid fan of the Arts, whether exploring museums or sitting down with a novel. Connect with Christine on Twitter (@CMGuerrini) or at .  

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